Looking at the books on sale at the Navajo National Monument visitor center, M. commented on how books about Navajo art, culture, etc. were on one side while pertaining to the Hopis and other Pueblo peoples were on the other.
Books on ethnobotany were on both sides, however, and I went away with one:Wild Plants and Native People of the Four Corners.
We always want to learn more about Southwestern gardening and to expand our knowledge of useful plants. In fact, the book inspired me to one experiment that I hope to blog later.
As for the Anasazi, who built the cliff dwellings that the monument preserves, they ate mush. Corn mush, ricegrass mush, bean mush, whatever. It sounds like the most boring (and nutritionally risky) diet ever on which to construct large stone buildings, trek across the landscape on ceremonial pathways, and otherwise carry on daily life.
If I am correct, a thousand years ago they did not even have chile peppers to give the mush some zing.
Animal protein? No buffalo in the area, just deer, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn antelope. Given the high population levels before the Great Collapse, which must have meant a lot of agile hunters with bows and throwing sticks, I suspect that those animals numbers were low and that venison was a rare treat indeed.
Even if you brought down a cottontail rabbit with your throwing stick, it probably had to be split eight ways.
But if they had grown grapes, their joie de vivre might have improved.
Switch on the alternative-history machine: Spanish explorers in the 16th century encounter Pueblo peoples whose cool, inmost rooms contain big clay ollas decorated in black-on-white Chaco designs where the wine is stored.
Later arrivals bring other European grapes, and in protected regions of the San Juan plateau the vineyards thrive. Chaco Canyon becomes known for its chardonnay ...
OK, that is fantasy but Guy Drew Vineyards is not. In just twelve years, with liberal application of water and money, Guy and Ruth have created an excellent winery, one of several in the area. See the "Four Corners" listing here. Lots of people are growing grapes for the new wineries.
Coming home from the Kayenta Plateau, we stopped there, sampled the reds, and left with several bottles, supplemented with the partial bottle of their Petit Verdot from dinner that night at Nero's Restaurant in Cortez.
When I see vineyards, I see permanent habitation and local culture, something that ought to last as long as "great houses" and ceremonial trackways, maybe longer. It's a hopeful sign.